Civil Rights groups file lawsuit against CCA for withholding information

Texas Civil Rights Project and Prison Legal News have filed suit against Corrections Corporation for withholding information around the tragic deaths of women at CCA-run Dawson State Jail.  At a press conference on May 1, TCRP attorney Brian McGiverin stated that:

"CCA hides the truth about its management because it knows the truth is horrific.  But they won’t get away with it. Texans know how to keep government accountable. Our laws entitle us to check its homework and keep it honest. At Dawson State Jail and beyond, we intend to show CCA it is not above the law."

The Dawson State Jail has come under fire in the last few months after a string of deaths, including that of a premature infant born in the facility without medical personnel present, which have been covered here.  TCRP has filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act which would require CCA to divulge information surrounding the deaths; so far, CCA has not complied, opening itself up to potential legal ramifications.  As a result of the disturbing conditions at Dawson, the jail is being targeted for closure during this legislative session.

The lawsuit has been covered in the Texas Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, KUT News, the Austin American-Statesman, and other news organizations. 

GEO Group subject of lawsuit in prisoner death at Central Texas Detention Center

The GEO Group and Warden James Copeland are the subject of a recent lawsuit after the December 29, 2011 death of Darrell Clayton Delany at company's Central Texas Detention Center in San Antonio.  

According to the petition (attached) filed in the 37th District Court, Delany suffered "suffered severe trauma, extreme physical injuries, extreme pain and suffering, and death" at the facility.  The suit further claims that his death was caused by "specific breaches of duty by defendants GEO, and Copeland, and as a result of direction given by GEO's corporate officers which include grossly inhuman treatment, abuse, neglect, illegal and malicious conditions of confinement, and subsequent cover up of wrongdoing."

We'll keep you posted on developments with this case.

Supreme Court rejects Bivens action against private prison employees

In an 8-1 opinion last week issued in Minneci v. Pollard, the Supreme Court held that an inmate in a privately contracted federal prison cannot maintain a Bivens action against facility employees to redress injuries he sustained as a result of their neglect. 

The plaintiff, Pollard, a prisoner in the Taft Correctional Institute operated by The GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation), fractured his elbows in a fall outside of the prison’s butcher shop in 2002.  He alleges that through the neglect of Wackenhut staff, he suffered immeasurable pain and “two permanently damaged arms”.

Although the Ninth Circuit found existing California tort law to be an insufficient remedy for Pollard, the Supreme Court found that "the state tort law authorizes adequate alternaive damages actions -- actions that provide both significant deterrence and compensation."

The ruling is significant for states (including Texas) “where federal prison facilities are being run by private companies”, but it is also important to note that the decision is narrowly focused on cases in which an appropriate state remedy exists that provides protection to the plaintiff.  The greater question of whether or not an employee of a private corporation under contract with the federal government “acts under color of federal law” for the purpose of Bivens remains unanswered.  

ACLU of Texas Defends Against Sexual Abuse of Immigrant Women; Just Tip of the Iceberg, Says Attorney

(Orginally posted on the ACLU of Texas Liberty Blog)

Today, the ACLU of Texas filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of women immigrants seeking asylum from sexual abuse and violence who have suffered sexual assault at the hands of detention officers. Horrific as these women’s cases are, they are symptomatic of a much larger problem.

Last night (Oct. 18, 2011), PBS Frontline correspondent Maria Hinojosa took a penetrating look at the Obama administration’s vastly expanded immigration net, punitive approach to immigration enforcement, and the secretive world of immigration detention that is so rife with serious problems and abuses.  Among those problems is the sexual abuse of immigration detainees, which the ACLU has helped expose by acquiring government documents through the Freedom of Information Act that provide a first-ever window into the breadth of this national shame.  ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero was featured during the program, titled "Lost in Detention," discussing those FOIA documents and the Obama administration’s record on immigration more generally.

ACLU of Texas Senior Staff Attorney Mark Whitburn said, “Unfortunately, we believe these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. Government records reveal that since 2007, 185 complaints have been made to the Department of Homeland Security about sexual abuse in ICE custody, 56 of which were from facilities in Texas.  Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and those holding them in custody know it,” Whitburn added.  “Many do not speak English, many – like our plaintiffs – have fled violence in their home countries, and are terrified of being returned.  They may not be aware of their rights or they may be afraid to exercise them.”

The ACLU today launched a page on the website devoted to the issue of sexual abuse of immigration detainees and a special blog series that will run through October examining the consequences of locking up tens of thousands of civil detainees every day.

Also last night (Oct. 18, 2011), CNBC debuted a new documentary entitled "Billions Behind Bars: Inside America's Prison Industry," a critical investigation of the multi-billion dollar corrections industry and how mass incarceration is a windfall for one particular special interest group: the private prison industry.  Among other things, the program featured an ACLU case challenging the brutally violent conditions at the Idaho Correctional Center, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison company.  As part of its promotion of the documentary, CNBC has posted on its website an op-ed by the National Prison Project's David Shapiro discussing the nefarious reality that private prison executives rake in multi-million dollar compensation packages while over-incarceration continues to harm the nation as a whole.

Later this month, ABC will air a special program on immigration detention that will feature several pieces of ACLU work, and as more information about air time becomes available we will let you know.

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